The International Rugby Board has announced the shortlist of nominees for the IRB Player of the Year 2010 Award in association with Emirates Airline.
The winner of the prestigious individual accolade will be announced on Wednesday, December 1, along with the IRB Coach of the Year and IRB Team of the Year.
Six nominees have been selected for their outstanding performances throughout a compelling year of international fixtures.
The shortlist combines a blend of vastly experienced players with rising young stars who have graduated from the IRB Junior World Championship to the international stage in the last couple of years.
New Zealand captain and 2009 Player of the Year Richie McCaw heads a shortlist also featuring his teammate Mils Muliaina, South Africa's Rugby World Cup winner Victor Matfield, France stalwart Imanol Harinordoquy and young Australian stars David Pocock and Kurtley Beale.
"The IRB Player of the Year Award is the greatest individual honour presented annually in our Game. The six players nominated have all enjoyed an exceptional year of international Rugby and have been judged on their performances in the RBS Six Nations, Tri Nations, June and November Tests," said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
"It is an impressive shortlist. Richie McCaw has already made history as the first player to win the Award twice, while Imanol Harinordoquy, Victor Matfield and Mils Muliaina have consistently performed to highest standards over the years."
"It is also pleasing to see some of the brightest stars of the world Game in Kurtley Beale and David Pocock also nominated for their achievements during what has been a fascinating year, setting the scene for what promises to be a memorable Rugby World Cup 2011."
The nominees were selected by the IRB Awards independent panel of judges, chaired by Rugby World Cup winning captain John Eales, following a year-long review of all Test matches and thorough consultation and deliberation.
The panel comprises some of the biggest names in the Game with Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga, Paul Wallace and Eales winning over 500 caps and boasting four Rugby World Cup winners medals between them.
"The panel watch every major international match throughout the year, providing comprehensive analysis on individual players and casting their vote based on performance and number of appearances," said Eales.
"The shortlist represents a great group of people who have come through the diligent voting process."
The IRB Player of the Year Award will be the seventh of the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline to be presented in 2010. In May, Samoa's Mikaele Pesamino was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year, while New Zealand's Julian Savea received the IRB Junior Player of the Year accolade in June and Women’s Rugby World Cup winner Carla Hohepa of New Zealand the IRB Women’s Personality of the Year Award in September. Brian O'Shea received the IRB Development Award in October and Colin High was presented with the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service earlier this month.
Previous Winners of the IRB Player of the Year Award:
2009 - Richie McCaw
2008 - Shane Williams
2007 - Bryan Habana
2006 - Richie McCaw
2005 - Dan Carter
2004 - Schalk Burger
2003 - Jonny Wilkinson
2002 - Fabien Galthie
2001 - Keith Wood
- 03 December - Award Panel Chair John Eales on IRB Player of the Year
- 03 December - John Eales on IRB Coach of the Year
- 03 December - John Eales on IRB Team of the Year
- 03 December - Joe Schmidt on Ireland and coming close to beating the All Blacks
- 02 December - Sevens commentator Scott Hastings looks back on Dubai